Seeing a whale has always been top of my travel bucket list and last year, when I visited Australia, I finally had my first glimpse of a humpback whale that remarkably breached the water 8 times in about 15 minutes. This fantastic experience has only increased my zeal for whale watching and I am excitedly preparing for my next trip to California where I hope to see another. Here are my five top destinations around the world for watching magnificent whales...
In Alaska, the whale watching opportunities are huge - with over 6,000 miles of coastline including jagged fjords and vast bays, it is the prime place for whale watching out in the wilds. Most tours take place either in the Inside Passage of Alaska from the capital of Juneau or further west in the island areas of Kodiak and Seward, accessible via Anchorage. In the spring, gray whales are commonly spotted on their way to the feeding grounds in the Bering Sea but further into summer there is the chance to see both minke and orca whales. The stunning mountainous scenery of Alaska is a wonderful backdrop to see these mysterious whales.
Hermanus in South Africa is the best place in the world to spot whales from land. That's right - there's no need to get on a boat to see these majestic creatures, so if you get sea sickness, this may be the perfect whale encounter for you! Located 1.5 hours south of Cape Town it's easy to reach by car and is a fantastic area to visit in its own right, but the whales that flock to the warm and shallow waters of the bay every summer are a huge pull for visitors. Southern Right Whales migrate north from Antarctica in winter to breed and can be seen enjoying themselves in the bay from up on the path that runs for 6 miles along the coast. With benches and binoculars, bring your sandwiches and you can settle down for an afternoon of astounding whale watching.
The island nation of Australia is a paradise for both whales and whale watchers alike. From Sydney Harbour you can cruise down to Botany Bay in search of the elusive humpback whales that migrate the whole way up the eastern coast throughout the summer. They have even been spotted inside the harbour itself but whale watching is not just limited to the city of Sydney. From Tasmania to Cape York, the waters of the eastern shore are teeming - I spotted one from our boat out to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas in Queensland. The Whitsunday Islands are also a good spot - the whales give birth to and nurse their calves here in the warm summers.
The long coastline of California makes it the perfect spot for whale watching especially due its location on the migration route from the mating areas off the coast of Mexico to the feeding grounds of northern Alaska. South of San Francisco is the town of Monterey, one of the prime locations for whale watching tours and cruises. Gray and humpback whales are the most often sighted but blue whales are also known to make an appearance in the autumn as well the occasional orca. Whales can sometimes even be spotted from the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Kaikoura in New Zealand is a tiny seaside town on the east coast of New Zealand, surrounded by tall, snow-capped mountains looking out over the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean. It is a centre for eco-tourism and the whale spotting opportunities are vast - sperm whales are almost common here as they gather along the coast throughout most of the year but you can also spot orca, pilot whales and if you're lucky the majestic Blue whale. I've already written about whale watching from land but what about from the air? In Kaikoura you can embark on a whale watching tour from the skies with Wings over Whales. At NZ$180 for a half hour flight they offer a unique view of the whales and with a 95% sighting rate for sperm whales, they are a good bet if you're as desperate to see the whales as I am!
If you'd like to include a spot of whale watching in your round the world trip, we can create any route to cater to your needs. Call +44 1273320580 or request a quote and we can start drawing up your trip today!